Written by Tom Innes
It was Charles Dickens who revived the celebrating of Christmas, which had been in decline during the reign of Victoria, with his novella A Christmas Carol, written in 1843. At the end of the book, here is a changed Scrooge –
“A Merry Christmas, Bob!” said Scrooge with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. “A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon over a bowl of smoking bishop, Bob!”
Smoking Bishop is a warm Christmas punch (mulled wine) favoured by Dickens, made with port. Here is a recipe from Eliza Acton’s Modern Cookery, published in 1845 –
Make several incisions in the rind of a lemon, stick cloves in these, and roast the lemon by a slow fire. Put small but equal quantities of cinnamon, cloves, mace, and allspice, with a race of ginger, into a saucepan with half a pint of water : let it boil until it is reduced one-half. Boil one bottle of port wine, burn a portion of the spirit out of it by applying a lighted paper to the saucepan; put the roasted lemon and spice into the wine ; stir it up well, and let it stand near the fire ten minutes. Rub a few knobs of sugar on the rind of a lemon, put the sugar into a bowl or jug, with the juice of half a lemon (not roasted), pour the wine into it, grate in some nutmeg, sweeten it to the taste, and serve it up with the lemon and spice floating in it.
In our household, however, we favour two things: Burgundy and the Pope. So over Christmas we are intending to drink Smoking Pope, which is made with burgundy rather than port. Use Eliza Action’s recipe above, but substitute red burgundy for the bottle of port – lighter and more refreshing than the Smoking Bishop.
As luck would have it, Fingal-Rock has a delightful red burgundy on offer, where you can buy two bottles for £12.50 (working out at £6.25 a bottle – a serious bargain), also making the Smoking Pope a more economical drink than the Smoking Bishop.
Happy Christmas drinking!